The best intersectionality books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about intersectionality and why they recommend each book.

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In The Game

By Nikki Baker,

Book cover of In The Game

Nikki Baker is the first African-American writer of lesbian mysteries and her character Virginia Kelly—who works as a financial analyst in Chicago—is the first African-American lesbian sleuth. This makes it important, but what makes the book outstanding is the writing, especially the voice of the protagonist. The plots are slick and entertaining, but it is Virginia’s internal musings and interpersonal relationships that make this—and the other 3 books in the series—a clear 5-star winner. 

Who am I?

Halfway through my first novel, I realized that I was writing in a genre that had received little critical study and had almost no visibility. To find my way around the genre—and my place within it—I began reading heavily and before I knew it, I had read well over 200 lesbian mystery novels and devoured almost every serious review and critical study The dozen books I have written over the last decade reflect this study. In them, I hope I have succeeded in expanding the genre in some small way and adding to the menu of a hungry and discerning LGBTQ audience. 

I wrote...

The News in Small Towns

By Iza Moreau,

Book cover of The News in Small Towns

What is my book about?

Sue-Ann McKeown, having spent six months as a Baghdad war correspondent, returns to her hometown of Pine Oak, Florida. She is tired, depressed, and suffers from a mysterious illness that is jeopardizing the quiet job she has taken with a small local newspaper. But odd things begin to happen: a goat is found dead in a dumpster, bizarre symbols appear in the woods near her farm, and her house is burgled and vandalized. Sue-Ann is forced to investigate these incidents. But the oddest thing of all is that she seems to be romantically pursued by a woman who was once her worst high school enemy. 

This is the first of a four-book series of mysteries featuring Sue-Ann and her friends. 

Beyond Guilt Trips

By Anu Taranath,

Book cover of Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World

This book is written for the millions of well-intentioned travellers and volunteers who travel to low-income countries to learn about and “help” people and cultures different from their own. Taranath unflinchingly confronts the awkward feelings of guilt, shame, and excess privilege that inevitably arise from international (and even inter-neighbourhood) travel. In their place, she offers a more nuanced look at how we fit in the intersectional jigsaw puzzle of global inequity, and how we can work to transform these feelings into the capacity to work towards justice. 

Beyond Guilt Trips is an essential companion to all those leading, engaging in, or contemplating travel, to ensure they embark on an inwards journey that mirrors the outward one.

Who am I?

I first volunteered overseas as a teenager. Driven by an insatiable desire to change the world, I helped to found a rural development organisation, PHASE, but found myself confronted with and paralysed by the complexities of the aid world. So as not to become jaded, I since shifted my focus to tackle what I believe to be the root causes of injustice in the world through global education, including researching and writing Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad. I now mainly work as a consultant to improve the ethical practices of volunteer organisations.

I wrote...

Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad

By Claire Bennett, Joseph Collins, Zahara Heckscher, Daniela Papi-Thornton

Book cover of Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad

What is my book about?

Noam Chomsky described this book as “An extraordinary contribution...a manifesto for doing good well.Every year, nearly 20 million people pack their bags to volunteer overseas—yet far too many are failing to make an impact, and some are even doing more harm than good. So how can we change the way we make positive change in the world? If you want to help you must first be willing to learn.

Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad offers a powerful and transformative new approach to international volunteering. The “learning service” model helps volunteers embrace the learning side of their adventures—and discover how cultivating openness, humility, and a willingness to reflect can enhance help them do good better. It’s not a lightweight 'how-to' handbook, but a thoughtful critique, a shocking exposé, and a detailed guide to responsibly serving communities in need.

They Didn't See Us Coming

By Lisa Levenstein,

Book cover of They Didn't See Us Coming: The Hidden History of Feminism in the Nineties

Levenstein’s subtitle says it all: we generally don’t think there was a ‘90s feminism. Her book pairs especially well with the others on this list, because it demonstrates how women of color took the lead in an intersectional feminism that focused on a huge range of issues at the end of the 20th century. It’s also a great read about the role of the early internet in 1990s feminist organizing. If you think social media was the first time computer technology shaped grassroots activism, her chapter on technology alone will blow your mind.

Who am I?

I have loved history since I was a girl, visiting my grandparents in Virginia and reading American Girl books. I began to focus on women’s history when I learned in college just how much the women’s movement of the generation before mine had made my life possible. So much changed for American women in the ten years before I was born, and I wanted to know how that happened and how it fit into the broader political changes. That connection, between women making change and the bigger political scene, remains the core of my research. I have a B.A. in history and English from the University of Kentucky, and a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Virginia.

I wrote...

Revolutionizing Expectations: Women's Organizations, Feminism, and American Politics, 1965-1980

By Melissa Estes Blair,

Book cover of Revolutionizing Expectations: Women's Organizations, Feminism, and American Politics, 1965-1980

What is my book about?

In the 1970s the women’s movement created tremendous changes in the lives of women throughout the United States. Millions of women participated in a movement that fundamentally altered the country’s ideas about how women could and should contribute to American society.

Revolutionizing Expectations tells the story of some of those women, many of whom took part in the movement in unexpected ways. By looking at feminist activism in Durham, Denver, and Indianapolis, Melissa Estes Blair uncovers not only the work of local NOW chapters but also the feminist activism of Leagues of Women Voters and of women’s religious groups in those pivotal cities.

Gender, Migration and Social Transformation

By Tanja Bastia,

Book cover of Gender, Migration and Social Transformation: Intersectionality in Bolivian Itinerant Migrations

This book gets at questions near and dear to my own ethnographic explorations, namely how migration changes gender roles in households. Women don’t leave home without figuring out care for young children and frail elders. Tanja Bastia looks at how Bolivian families handle the challenge of transnational parenting. Grandmothers often fill in for their migrant daughters (there’s the aging connection!), and migrant women struggle to balance their financial opportunities with the social stigma of having ‘abandoned’ their children in search of wealth.  

Who am I?

My mom was an anthropologist, and when I was two, she took me to Sri Lanka, the island off the tip of India. After years of insisting that I wanted nothing to do with any social science, let alone anthropology, I ended up in graduate school studying… anthropology. Long story. Having taken up the family mantel, I returned to the village where I lived as a child and asked what had changed in the intervening years. Since then, my Sri Lankan interlocutors have suggested book topics that include labor migration, the use and abuse of alcohol, the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the challenges of aging. 

I wrote...

Linked Lives: Elder Care, Migration, and Kinship in Sri Lanka

By Michele Ruth Gamburd,

Book cover of Linked Lives: Elder Care, Migration, and Kinship in Sri Lanka

What is my book about?

When loved ones spend years away from home, what happens to the family members left behind? In this book, I draw readers into intimate family life in a coastal village in Sri Lanka. I began researching this village 30 years ago, studying what happened when mothers left the country to work as housemaids in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Over the years, the village has changed, my friends have aged, and their children have migrated. I try to capture their triumphs and sorrows and the challenges that their trans-local families face in caring for children and elders.  

The Heart of the Race

By Beverley Bryan, Stella Dadzie, Suzanne Scafe

Book cover of The Heart of the Race: Black Women's Lives in Britain

Heart of the Race is the single most important text of British black feminism. First published in 1985, the book captures the collective experience of black women in Britain and its colonies, highlighting how the long history of slavery and empire, and women’s resistance to them, continues into the present with struggles over healthcare, education, migration, and work. Coming out of the work of the pioneering Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent, the book carefully traces the ways that race, class, and gender are structured together in the lives of African-Caribbean women – what activists would today call “intersectionality.” The power of the book lies in the clarity of its analysis as well as its long extracts from the authors’ interviews with black women.

Who am I?

Kundnani writes about racial capitalism and Islamophobia, surveillance and political violence, and Black radical movements. He is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic War on Terror and The End of Tolerance: racism in 21st century Britain, which was selected as a New Statesman book of the year. He has written for the Nation, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Vice, and The Intercept. Born in London, he moved to New York in 2010. A former editor of the journal Race & Class, he was miseducated at Cambridge University, and holds a PhD from London Metropolitan University. He has been an Open Society fellow and a scholar-in-residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

I wrote...

The Muslims Are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror

By Arun Kundnani,

Book cover of The Muslims Are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror

What is my book about?

The Muslims are Coming! is the story of how the United States and British governments developed a sprawling infrastructure of surveillance to counter the threat of domestic terrorism. At least 100,000 Muslims in the US were placed under scrutiny – many were entrapped and wrongfully imprisoned by the FBI and federal prosecutors.

Meanwhile, British police and intelligence officers surveilled children as young as five as potential extremists. These abuses were backed by an industry of freshly minted experts and commentators, who helped propagate a series of racial prejudices about Muslims living in the West. Based on several years of research and reportage, in locations as disperate as Texas, New York, and Yorkshire, this is the first comprehensive critique of the War on Terror at home.

At the Intersection

By Robert Longwell-Grice (editor), Hope Longwell-Grice (editor),

Book cover of At the Intersection: Understanding and Supporting First-Generation Students

The editors and contributing authors present research and theory interspersed with unique personal experiences of the journey taken by first-generation students as they move through college. The volume provides the reader with up-to-date data on two- and four-year colleges, and discusses the intersection of first-generation status with varied student identities including LGBT, low-income, African-American, Latinx, Native American, and undocumented. The last section of the book offers an introduction to practices, policies, and programs across the U.S., and directs educators, policymakers, and administrators to make campuses inclusive for diverse first-generation college students. At the Intersection is a resource for understanding and effectively responding to first-generation students’ divergent, shared, and intersectional identities in order to understand and alter their access, retention, learning, and well-being on the college campus.

Who am I?

Having worked on college campuses for 25 years as a professor, administrator, and first-year experience program designer, I’ve seen first-hand how freshmen are increasingly failing at “adulting” because they are unprepared for the realities of campus life. I take on this needed preparation as co-author of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There) and as the creator of the Talking College™ Card Deck, discussion prompts for college-bound students and their parents/guardians. I share my insider knowledge with college-bound students and their parents at talks and workshops throughout the U.S. My goal is to help both groups thrive as they prepare for the upcoming transition.

I wrote...

How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You're There)

By Andrea Malkin Brenner, Lara Hope Schwartz,

Book cover of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You're There)

What is my book about?

The only book of its kind that guides first-year students to thrive in the transition after high school graduation and throughout their first year on campus, emphasizing the student’s ultimate self-reliance. It draws on the authors’ experiences teaching and working with thousands of first-year college students over decades. The book is filled with important resources needed to set the foundation of success at the collegiate level including lessons and activities on money; time and self-management; co-curricular and civic-engagement experiences; navigating relationships with family and friends back at home and roommates and peers on campus; exploring new college identities; finding one's voice inside and outside of the classroom; health, wellness and safety; and the importance of finding mentors for support in this life transition.

Western Women and Imperialism

By Nupur Chaudhuri (editor), Margaret Strobel (editor),

Book cover of Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance

A collection of very short but incredibly interesting and illuminating essays, this book inaugurated the field of study we might call “feminism and empire.” Strobel and Chaudhuri gathered up the most important histories written to that date that explained how nineteenth and twentieth-century feminism emerged from colonialist contexts all over the world. Asking the question “what difference does gender make?” each author teases out the importance of gender for colonial travel and politics in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Reading this book made me want to contribute to that kind of historical understanding of gender, modeling for me what an “intersectional feminist” method of historical investigation might look like.

Who am I?

As a historian of feminism, I have been trying for decades to understand how gender, race, class, and nationality are knotted together in ways that are not always obvious or trackable in our personal experience. The books I recommend here have served as brilliant lanterns for me—not simply pointing out the flawed history of western feminism but instead explaining the complicated effects of whiteness and imperialism in the development of today’s feminist identities, ideologies, and consciousness. For me, these histories offer intersectional keys decoding the map of the world we’ve been dropped into and offering a path leading to a more justly feminist future….I hope they do for you too!

I wrote...

White Queen: May French-Sheldon and the Imperial Origins of American Feminist Identity

By Tracey Jean Boisseau,

Book cover of White Queen: May French-Sheldon and the Imperial Origins of American Feminist Identity

What is my book about?

“White Queen" is what an unusual and fascinating woman named May French-Sheldon (1847-1936) called herself, or claimed that the Africans she met, during her 1891 expedition to the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, called her. Her explorer’s outfit—including a full-length, jewel-encrusted, white ballgown, tiara, and waist-length blonde wig—ensured her whiteness would be inextricably linked to what she hoped would be read as “queenliness.” “White Queen” also describes a kind of white, Western, feminist figure whose claims to power, importance, and personal emancipation rely heavily upon and perpetuate a world structured by racism and colonialism.

This book zooms in on the fascinating life and public career of the first woman explorer of Africa to explicate how white American feminist identity—first forged in the fires of colonial conquest—became reliant on tropes of race in ways that still yoke American feminism to the politics of empire.

Ana on the Edge

By A.J. Sass,

Book cover of Ana on the Edge

Ana on the Edge is a powerful novel about figure skating and gender identity that’s equally perfect for figure skating enthusiasts and kids looking for LGBTQIA+ stories. It’s obvious from the first page that the author is a figure skater who knows the sport intimately, but the sparkling skating scenes are just as fun and accessible for readers who watch the occasional Olympic figure skating competition as they would be for insiders. And the most special part of this book is the poignant way it depicts a kid who is figuring out the gender identity that feels right while competing in a very gendered sport. I loved Ana and could not put this book down; I know many readers will feel the same.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved watching and playing sports, and now I love writing about them, too. As a former teacher, I’ve seen firsthand how sporty books appeal to sporty kids. But after publishing my novel Up for Air, which is about a star swimmer, I’ve been struck by how many readers tell me they connected deeply with the main character even though they don’t like sports at all. That made me think about what makes sports stories resonate, and now I look out for books that capitalize on all the most exciting and relatable things about sports while also offering compelling hooks to readers with all sorts of interests.

I wrote...

Coming Up Short

By Laurie Morrison,

Book cover of Coming Up Short

What is my book about?

Bea’s parents think she can accomplish absolutely anything. But at the end of seventh grade, on the day she makes a play to send her softball team to the league championships and Xander, the boy she likes, makes it clear that he likes her too, a scandal shakes up her world. Bea’s dad took money that belonged to a client. He’s now suspended from practicing law, and another lawyer spread the news online. To make matters worse, that lawyer is Xander’s dad.

The thing she was best at seems to be slipping out of her fingers along with her formerly happy family. She's not sure what's going to be harder—learning to throw again or forgiving her dad. How can she be the best version of herself when everything she loves is falling apart?

Women, Art, and Society

By Whitney Chadwick,

Book cover of Women, Art, and Society

As an undergrad, I was blessed to have two professors who changed the course of my life: Angela Davis and Whitney Chadwick. Both of these professors discussed the intersectionality of gender, race, and class. Women, Art, and Society was published in 1990, and in 2020, the sixth edition was released. Although women artists’ representation in art history pedagogy has improved since 1990, the art world in general still favors men over women, making Chadwick’s book a relevant read. It provides a historical and critical look at women artists from the Middle Ages to the present, covering a range of media and artists from various cultural and geographical backgrounds. It challenges the assumption that great women artists are the exception to the rule and charts the evolution of feminist art history. 

Who am I?

As a teenager, I found the layered poetry of Sylvia Plath as riveting as an impasto-layered canvas by Vincent Van Gogh. A love for the rhythm of words and paint, as well as the power of art to tell stories and critique history led me to study art history. Influential college professors opened my eyes to the systematic exclusion of women from art and history. Today, I’m a professor at the University of San Francisco, where I specialize in modern, contemporary, and African art, with an emphasis upon issues of gender, race, ethnicity, and class. I’m particularly interested in women artists and artists who cross cultural boundaries. 

I wrote...

Frida in America: The Creative Awakening of a Great Artist

By Celia Stahr,

Book cover of Frida in America: The Creative Awakening of a Great Artist

What is my book about?

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo adored adventure. In 1930, she was thrilled to realize her dream of traveling to the United States. Only twenty-three and newly married to world-famous muralist Diego Rivera, Kahlo was at a crossroads in her life. San Francisco, Detroit, and New York with their magnificent beauty, horrific poverty, racial tension, anti-Semitism, and thriving music and dance scenes, pushed Kahlo in unexpected directions. Shifts in her style of painting began to appear, cracks in her marriage widened, and tragedy struck twice, while she was living in Detroit. Frida in America is the first in-depth biography of these formative years spent in what Frida often called “Gringolandia,” a place that both angered and fascinated her. 

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